Seeking ‘new solutions’ for food production - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Seeking ‘new solutions’ for food production

PROHEALTH, a consortium of 22
research partners from 11 European
countries co-ordinated by Newcastle
University, has been awarded the
largest ever grant given by the
European Union in the animal
health field (€11.9 million) “to
identify new solutions to reconcile
modern animal production systems
and sustainability”.

The project focuses on exploring
ways to increase production quality,
limiting environmental impact and
preserving profitability for farmers and
those who make their living from animal
food production.

The PROHEALTH (PROduction
HEALTH – sustainable intensive pig
and poultry production) consortium
comprises 10 academic partners, one
European association, four industry
partners and seven small and medium-
sized enterprises with expertise in
veterinary science and epidemiology,
animal physiology and immunology,
socioeconomics, genetics and nutrition,
as well as the welfare and production
science of pigs and poultry.

It draws its members from the UK,
Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic,
Denmark, Finland, France, The
Netherlands, Poland, Spain and
Switzerland.

“The overarching aim of the five-
year PROHEALTH project is to
improve the competitiveness and
sustainability of intensive pig and
poultry farming in Europe. The key
point of difference is an holistic
approach focusing on understanding the
multifactorial dimension of animal
diseases linked to the intensification of production, and using this knowledge to
develop, evaluate and disseminate
effective control and improvement
strategies for reducing impact
throughout the EU,” said the pro-vice
chancellor of Newcastle University,
Professor Steve Homans.

To that end, PROHEALTH will
address production diseases of pigs and
poultry (broiler and egg-laying chickens
and turkeys) raised in a wide range of
intensive systems across the EU. The
complexity, causality, extent and risks of
different disease states and their
interactions will be examined under field
conditions.

Epidemiological and experimental
approaches will be applied to investigate
links between genetic predisposition
(animal) and environmental stressors
(housing, nutrition, management), in
addition to the dynamic influence of
environment on disease.

Synergistic

“This is a very synergistic partnership,”
said Alejandro Bernal, executive vice-
president of Zoetis and area president
for the Europe, Africa and Middle East
region, the exclusive animal health company
partner of the
consortium. “All parties
can benefit from the
combined expertise and
resource of what is
probably the biggest
poultry and pigs research
network in the world at
the moment.

“This is a great
example of a private/public initiative to
advance our scientific
knowledge, respond to the
challenges of the future for
our world and improve
animal welfare.”

Dr Theo Kanellos,
director of Sstrategic
alliances for Zoetis, said
that PROHEALTH would
deliver novel diagnostics to
predict the propensity of
production-disease
development in animals, communication
tools for increasing awareness and
sharing knowledge (such as e-learning),
in addition to spearheading
technological advances.

“Putting the multifactorial
improvement strategies into practice is
expected to yield better quality products
in an animal-welfare friendly manner, in
line with economic and environmental
sustainability, thereby improving modern
pig and poultry farming systems across
the EU, and also raising the bar for
animal production worldwide.

“Over the next 40 years, the Food
and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations projects
that the global
requirement for animal
derived protein will
increase by 50%.

“Sustainability will be
essential to meet this
global demand for safe
and quality food, at an
affordable price, while
making the best possible
use of natural resources.

“According to the World Organisation for Animal Health,
30% of food production is already lost
due to infectious and non-infectious
diseases occurring at farm level and at
both a European and global level.
PROHEALTH will take aim at this loss
which, if not addressed, will limit the
ability to respond to demand for animal
protein, as well as compromising animal
welfare,” Dr Kanellos said.

The School of Agriculture, Food and
Rural Development of Newcastle
University is regarded as the UK’s leading
institution for education and research into
pig and poultry systems and was selected
by the British Pig Executive as the Centre
for National Pig Development Research.

The university also has a strong
tradition of research into societal issues
associated with food production. Research
is conducted in purpose-built facilities and
in collaboration with UK and EU-based
livestock industries.

In addition to Newcastle University,
UK-based organisations involved are
Aviagen (a broiler and turkey breeding
company), JSR Genetics, Poultry Health
Services (a veterinary consultancy), and the
Nottingham and Reading universities.

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